How to stay on top of industry trends (without losing your mind)

I don’t know of anyone who gets more than 24 hours in their day. Most days it’s tough enough to do your job, take care of administrative items (email, meetings, kickoffs, proposals), eat your three meals, see your family/friends, and get sufficient sleep. Maybe you have a book on your night stand at home. Are you sure it’s still relevant to your field?

Today, new ideas surface faster than ever; if you want to stay ahead of your competitors, you need to be tuned in at all times. If you want to stay stagnant and see others pass by, then this post won’t be for you. These suggestions will help you cut your time.

Here’s how I keep up:

Use a feed aggregator – scan many headlines at once

Most blogs and news sites utilize web feeds. A feed (aka RSS) syndicates website content. Using an aggregator like Google Reader, Bloglines, or NetNewsWire allows you to subscribe to your favorite sites’ content – think of it like a newspaper subscription. I recently converted from Bloglines to Google Reader. Here’s a small shot of my subscriptions.

Use stripped down Twitter tools

Twitter grew 752% in 2008 and is picking up quickly, especially in marketing circles. Businesses are using it to communicate with their clients and prospects. Did you hear about how Comcast created a lot of positive buzz using Twitter? Millions of users blurt out messages (limited to 140 characters) of whatever they feel like. It’s similar to Facebook’s status updates, but it’s more important as it’s all searchable. Find an answer to a development question, research positive experiences with online print companies, or maybe you’re wondering what someone is saying about the seminar you’re at. Businesses, Twitter is another excellent way to communicate with your clients. 

Right now, I’m following about 170 people on Twitter who all have interesting things to say. I’ve subscribed to a “Bridgeline Digital” search result to monitor what people are saying about Bridgeline, similar to Google Alerts. I recommend you do the same for your own company/name. Follow me on twitter if you’d like.

I use TwitterFox instead of the website, which embeds my stream into my Firefox status bar . If you become a twitter power user, check out Tweetdeck.

Attend seminars and meet-ups

Remember human contact? Each month I try to make it to a web meetup on the north shore called Build Guild. Last summer, I attended Mashable’s Summermash Boston and met developers, designers, SEOs, project managers, and marketers. Since then, I’ve stayed connected with them on Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, and StumbleUpon. Make a point to try out 3-4 meetups this year.

Sometimes Google isn’t the answer

Google’s search results are continually getting better, but consider using some other resources to find the best answers. Don’t discount:
  • Delicious – search people’s bookmarks
  • LinkedIn Answers
  • Google blog search
  • Twitter search

Written by Marcel Moreau

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